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Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do: Approximately Top 10

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a day of the best Downtown Nashville things to do! When you say, “How’d you like to spend a day in Nashville, Tennessee?” to most people, they think of waking up the next morning in a whiskey-glazed stupor minus their wallet and plus a strange pair of cowboy boots. But Nashville is more than just guitars, Cadillacs, and hillbilly music.

With a day of the best Downtown Nashville things to do, we’ll dive deep into country music, for sure. But we’ll also feast on gourmet treats in one of the country’s best food cities. Join me for these best Downtown Nashville things to do and we’ll be sure to find those friends in low places.

best downtown Nashville things to do

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

Where to Stay?

Nashville hotels are much more expensive than I was expecting. But I suppose that’s not so surprising given how popular Nashville is with tourists. It was a little tricky for me to find a hotel that was in a good location and affordable. That’s why I was grateful to the Fairlane Hotel for showing me such a good time.

The location could not have been better, as it was within walking distance of pretty much everything you would want to see in Downtown Nashville. And the rooms were gorgeous, but the price didn’t leave me broker than a hound dog crying in the rain over your cheatin’ heart. 

If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’d rather explore great deals on almost 1000 other hotels in Nashville, click here. This search engine will help you find the most affordable and convenient hotel during your day of the best downtown Nashville things to do.

best downtown nashville things to do

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

Shopping List

  • An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures all during your day of the best downtown Nashville things to do
  • My favorite travel guide to Nashville
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
  • Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by guitars, Cadillacs, and hillbilly music during your day of the best downtown Nashville things to do.
Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

Morning: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Nashville is good at many things, but she’s most famous for being the world capital of the country music scene. You can’t spend enjoy the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do without hearing some country. I can hear some Internet Strangers out there saying, “But I don’t like country music! I only like this one Icelandic band no one has ever heard of! Waa!”

Nobody cares about your dislikes! You’re not cool because you think something that a lot of people like is really bad! Even if you think you don’t like country, try to keep an open mind during your time with the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do and learn a little something.

The best place for a country music novice to start their day is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It will teach you all about why country music caught on in Nashville. You’ll also be able to listen to all the best country bands. From Willie Nelson to Shania Twain to Merle Haggard, there’s sure to be a country music singer for you.

You can easily buy tickets online here. Not persuaded yet? Let me convince you further with…

three fun facts: Country Music

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do
1) how did country music start?

Many people think that country music evolved in the United States from traditional English and Scottish folk music. This folk music in many parts of the South was combined with gospel and blues music from African-Americans to create a unique American sound.

At first, country music was just the songs of the poor, so it wasn’t too popular. That all changed in 1925, when the radio started broadcasting “barn dance” music. These barn dance broadcasts eventually turned into the Grand Ole Opry shows that are so famous today.

I know country music now has a more glamorous image, but I miss the old days with bands named things like the Hackberry Ramblers, the Possum Hunters, The Fruit Jar Drinkers, and The Gully Jumpers. Guess which ones of those I made up? None, sucker! They are all one hundo percent real.

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do
2) who was The first country star?

Sadly, cool bands like the Dixie Clodhoppers have fallen through the sands of time. But country’s first real star was a man named Hank Williams. Despite the fact that he died at the tender age of 29 because of alcoholism and drug abuse, the legacy that he left on country music is indelible.

I can’t imagine it surprised anyone that Williams had a drinking problem because one of his most famous songs is about how sad he is that his bucket has a hole and he can’t buy beer.

Sadly, it seems like it’s more noteworthy if a country star doesn’t have a substance abuse problem than if they do. Maybe singing about whiskey and cheating all day really takes it out of a person. But there will be no cheating during our day of the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do. The whiskey is optional.

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do
3) what about the ladies?

Of course we can’t talk about country music without talking about the ladies. From June Carter Cash to Reba McEntire to Carrie Underwood to Dolly Parton, country music is nothing without women. But perhaps my favorite country singer is Miss Loretta Lynn.

If you’ve seen the Oscar winning movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter, you already know her story. She was married to Tommy Lee Jones at the age of 13 and had four kids by 19. But she believed in her singing and songwriting talent, and eventually she became the first woman to be voted Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.

If you haven’t heard her music before, you are in for a real treat. My favorite thing to do in the Country Music Hall of Fame is to turn on “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”. Then I hide behind a corner and watch as everyone in the place gravitates to the music. It’s such a good song and more people should know it! Just take a listen and see!

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do
24 Hour Treat: The Devil’s Fiddle

My two guilty music pleasures are 80s pop music and country, so by the transitive property, my favorite guilty pleasure album is the soundtrack to Urban Cowboy. And of course the best song on the album is “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band. I know all the lyrics to the song, which is probably my greatest accomplishment in life.

This is why I completely geeked out to see that the Country Music Hall of Fame has one of the black fiddles that the CDB uses to play the role of the devil in the song. In fact I was tempted to smash the glass and attempt to steal it to add verisimilitude to my karaoke renditions of the song. But I don’t think they’d let me back into Nashville ever again if I did that. Also I don’t know how to play the fiddle.

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

Afternoon: Walk Eat Nashville Tour

I love food tours so much. If reincarnation is real, I want to come back as a food tour. It combines my two favorite activities, learning random pieces of trivia and eating foods that are bad for me. Nashville is the kind of city that does everything well, from haute cuisine to fried chicken sandwiches in a weird shack.

That’s why I was excited to try the Walk Eat Nashville food tour of the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do and eat. Where else can you try both farm to table broccolini sandwiches and historic candies with a very silly name in the same meal? Only in Nashville!

Approximately top 5: Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do Food

best downtown nashville things to do
1) Southernaire Market

One of the themes on this food tour was eating local food. That’s why the first stop on our tour of the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do was at a place called Southernaire Market, specializing in regional products. We were served bites of their sandwiches like their roasted turkey and their banh mi, as well as their house made potato salad.

The potato salad had a fun little kick to it, and our guide explained that the secret ingredient is pickle juice. I’m of the firm belief that pickles make everything better.

The banh mi, which is a Vietnamese sandwich, has become popular in the South because so many Vietnamese immigrants have moved to Southern cities like New Orleans and Houston. Apparently the climate of the Gulf Coast and the climate of Vietnam is rather similar.

I like how The Southernaire used benne seeds on the banh mi because benne seeds are a traditional ingredient in Southern African-American cooking. So there was an interesting bit of fusion going on in this sandwich.

best downtown nashville things to do
2) Bakersfield Tacos

I was a little confused that our next stop was a taco shop. That didn’t seem very local to me. But our guide Ad explained that there’s a connection between Bakersfield and Nashville. Bakersfield, California is where the Bakersfield style of country music developed.

This was the music that was supposed to be raw and honky tonk, as opposed to the shiny, poppier Nashville sound. Because God knows I can’t just enjoy some tacos without there being historic significance behind them.

best downtown nashville things to do

The short rib tacos with the homemade tortillas were delicious, but our group thought the real treat here was the margaritas. It felt so decadent to have a marg at lunchtime, even if it was a Mini Marg. There was one member of the group–let’s call her Mona Lisa because she reminded me of an older version of Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny.

Anyway, Mona Lisa ordered a giant margarita on top of the small one, and after that she was definitely the life of the party. Not that I’m complaining! If there’s one thing that makes a food tour interesting, it’s an intoxicated older woman from New Jersey, I always say.

best downtown nashville things to do
3) The Farm House

At first glance, The Farm House seems like one of those trendy farm to table restaurants you can find all over the United States. But the difference with The Farm House is that the chef, Trey Cioccia, actually comes from a family of farmers. Ad says that Trey never gives the food tour the same tasting twice. For us, we had a fresh broccolini and goat cheese slider. If I had a farm, I might do nothing but grow broccolini and milk goats.

The bonus here was that we actually got to meet Chef Trey and hear about how he sources the finest, US-only ingredients. I think my favorite part of his spiel was when he took out his cell phone and showed us pictures of a pig he had recently been involved in butchering. (Fear not, vegetarians among us. We were not actually required to look at the pig pics.)

best downtown nashville things to do
4) Kitchen Notes

I was once again surprised on this tour when Ad said that we’d be going to the restaurant at the Omni Hotel for our next bite. Usually hotel restaurants are mediocre. After all, you’re kind of their prisoner if you’re staying there. What if you’re exhausted? What are you going to do? Go outside to eat? Pffft!

But fortunately the restaurant in the Omni, Kitchen Notes, is not an ordinary hotel restaurant. Their burger was voted the best burger in all of Nashville. I imagine that’s because it’s covered with melted pimento cheese. Pimento cheese is a Southern specialty, made by mixing cheese, mayonnaise, and pimento peppers. Also, the correct pronunciation is “pimenno”.

The fries were just as good as the sumptuous burger. Ad said that was because they cover them with 21 spices, including dried seaweed and collard greens. I feel like saying that I’m going to track down all 21 spices, including dried collard greens, and make them myself at home is one of those things that sounds like a good idea while I’m on the road. But once I get home, I’ll never actually do it.

Mona Lisa was especially fond of these fries, but I kind of doubt she’ll remember anything she said the next day. It’s too bad because the food was definitely worth remembering!

best downtown nashville things to do
5) Goo Goo Cluster

Hot chicken aside, the Goo Goo Cluster is perhaps the most Nashville taste that there is. It was invented in Nashville in 1912, and it is made with chocolate, marshmallow, and peanuts. It is apparently the first “combination” candy in the United States. Combination candy means a candy made with chocolate mixed with something else. So we can all thank the Goo Goo Cluster for the existence of things like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

The Goo Goo business has expanded since 1912, and now you can get Goo Goos shipped to you anywhere in the US. They also make gourmet, handmade Goo Goos called Premium Goo Goos. (I’m starting to feel very silly typing Goo Goos over and over again.) I won’t lie; the Goo Goo is a wondrous beast.

When I was clicking on the Goo Goo website to do “research” for this “blog post”, I was very tempted to order 100 dollars worth of Goo Goos and have them shipped to me immediately. The only thing that stopped me is that I think my doorman might judge me if he sees me getting a large package with the word Goo Goo written on it.

best downtown nashville things to do

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

Evening: Show at the Ryman, Dinner at Arnold’s

You might think it’s funny to suggest having dinner right after a food tour. Well, I wouldn’t recommend going to dinner directly from the food tour. This is Music City, after all. So stop in the legendary Ryman Auditorium before getting dinner.

The Ryman Auditorium was named after a businessman named Thomas Ryman. He built it as a church after being converted to evangelical Christianity. When the church was converted to a performance space, they named it the Ryman Auditorium in his honor. (That’s why the Ryman is often called the Mother Church of Country Music.)

Sadly for lovers of church-concert hall combos, the Grand Ole Opry moved to a new venue in the 1970s and the Ryman Auditorium fell into disrepair. But like all good things, the Ryman was restored in the 90s and you can see shows there today! Most days of the week, the Grand Ole Opry shows will be located in the new venue.

However, on Thursdays, the Ryman hosts the Opry Country Classics show. So if you’re following this itinerary on Thursday, your Grand Ole Opry show will actually be located at the Ryman Auditorium. That will give you a chance to see a special performance in this historic building!

24 Hour Treat

There’s no way to guarantee which performers will be on when you’re in Nashville. I don’t have psychic powers, Internet Stranger! But my favorite performer I saw at the Grand Ole Opry was the singularly named Sylvia.

Sylvia’s big hit in the 1980s was called “Nobody”, and it combines all my favorite country music topics: cheating, sarcasm, and holding on to a terrible man who is bad for you for no reason. Please listen to the song because I promise the lyrics are funnier than I am, and I almost never think anything is funnier than I am.

best downtown nashville things to do
24 Hour Treat: Arnold’s

Arnold’s Country Kitchen is not the place to go if you want something fancy! It’s a classic meat and three restaurant, which means you get one entree and three sides. You can choose your sides from a very impressive selection that changes daily.

I opted for some classics like chicken and dumplings, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and turnip greens. The chicken and dumplings are a slightly lighter choice if you don’t have enough room in your belly to jump into something fried. And the mac and cheese and mashed potatoes both taste like white gravy, which is amazing. I was especially impressed that the mac and cheese had no lumps in it.

Arnold’s is also famous for its chess pie, so get some of that if it’s available. It’s filled with sugar, eggs, and love, three of the greatest things in the world. Nobody really knows why it’s called chess pie. Just think of it as a lovely custard pie, relax, and enjoy!

That’s it for the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do! Go to sleep tonight with a belly full of amazing food and ears full of amazing music!

best Downtown Nashville things to do

Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

How to Get There?

By Car: This is an easy way to get to your day of the best Nashville things to do, if you are coming from somewhere else on the southern East Coast in the United States. You can drive here easily from Louisville, Atlanta, or other parts of Tennessee.

However, I don’t know how to drive, so this wasn’t an option for me. Fortunately Uber and Lyft are widely available in Nashville. If you need to rent a car, you can use the search engine Expedia to find the best price from the available car rental companies.

best downtown nashville things to do

By Plane: Fortunately, there is an airport in Nashville! Since I live in New York City and don’t know how to drive, I found that flying was the easiest way to get to our day of the best downtown Nashville things to do. (Again, I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.)

By Bus: I have definitely used the Greyhound bus to get to Nashville from Louisville. It’s a pretty easy and cheap ride–if you are car-free and coming from a fairly nearby destination, this might be the place for you.

best downtown nashville things to do

That’s the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do

What do you think are the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Nashville? Why is it called chess pie? And is Mona Lisa handling her day drinking okay? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do. If you have another 24 hours in Nashville and would like to try more than the Best Downtown Nashville Things to Do, add this itinerary